The Iowa Project Brewing Company: A big win for downtown Spencer

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Lucas Kline and Nick Applegate, owners of The Iowa Brewery Project, holding glasses of beer

Lucas Kline and Nick Applegate, owners of The Iowa Brewery Project.

Nick Applegate and Lucas Kline are steadily making progress on opening a business that many in Spencer had hoped would come eventually – a brewery.

They’ve collected $50,000 toward their brewery, The Iowa Project Brewing Company, from the city’s Retail Kickstarter program and have soared through a crowdfunding campaign that so far has raised $12,605. The goal was $10,000.

But even before those milestones were reached, The Iowa Project Brewing Company, or The Iowa Project for short, was going to happen. It eventually will be located at 316 Grand Avenue.

The process of bringing a brewery to Spencer involved many people from the city, the Iowa Lakes Corridor Development Corporation and more. Above all, though, this was two guys with a plan they wanted to execute.

Applegate said actually visiting Spencer last summer helped kick that plan into gear. Kline, who has lived in Spencer for a while now, helped coax him away from Kansas City.

“The more we got into it and we started talking to different people up here, I got to meet some (of Kline’s) friends and family, got to know the city a little bit, we started having that conversation and it really opened up and was something that we wanted to be a part of,” he said. “So here we are.”

Expect both traditional and experimental beers

Once it’s open, The Iowa Project will have a variety of beers, from the traditional lagers, cream ales and other ale varieties, to the more experimental types.

“We want to play towards that tradition in a lot of our beers, but we’re also gonna do a lot of really experimental stuff,” Applegate said. That will include IPAs, hazy IPAs – which he described as “really soft, juicy, different characteristics like that.” 

The brewery will also have stouts, fruited beers, sours and beers aged in wine, whiskey and bourbon barrels.

“That’ll actually go on downstairs where there’s a whole big cellar setup down there,” he said. “We’ll kind of do a bunch of different mix fermentation brews down there with that.”

All brewing will be done on-site.

‘Craft. Experience. Community.’

Applegate and Kline want The Iowa Project to be a destination for local craft beer lovers to seek out so they can experience craft beer together.

The brewery’s slogan – etched on its glassware – delivers that message: “Craft. Experience. Community.”

“We want this to be a place for community, whether that’s, you know, 2-year-old screaming babies or 50-year-old people or 70-year-old grandparents, like, it doesn’t matter,” Applegate said. “We want this to be a place for everybody.”

While the brewery won’t distribute, there will be beer available to go. That will include cans, growlers and crowlers.

A project becomes reality

Applegate knows what craft beer lovers want, too. He’s been a part of the strong Kansas City craft beer scene for a while now.

He had a full-time job at a bank there but had a part-time job at a brewery.

“Every day it was like regular work just became a paycheck and going to brewery was what I enjoyed doing,” Applegate said.

He had known he wanted to pursue a career in the industry for some time. He and Kline, close friends who served as best man in each others’ weddings, knew they wanted to go into the business together, no matter the location.

“He was like, ‘Whenever this happens, you know, I want to partner with you and make that happen, whether it’s here, in Kansas City, or wherever the hell that is,’” Applegate said. “We wanted to, you know, be in that together.”

Kline put forward the idea of Applegate joining him in Spencer and starting the brewery. Applegate said he laughed at the idea of moving to a small town in Iowa, starting over and leaving what he’d gotten used to in Kansas City.

But the thought stuck with him. Then he visited Spencer. That’s when it started getting serious.

“He came up and we went over numbers Fourth of July weekend,” Kline said. “And then I said, well, ‘It’s now or never. Are gonna make this choice?’ He and his wife Sydney went back (to Kansas City) and he’s like, ‘We’re doing it.’ I said OK because, the way I look at it, I’d rather be in my 30s and fail at something. I want to try to succeed at (this) than be 45 or whatever and wish I would have tried it.”

Kline said he was sometimes skeptical The Iowa Project would get off the ground.

“Every time we’d take another step forward, I was like, Eh, this ain’t gonna happen, (then) take another step forward, Eh. this ain’t gonna happen,” Kline said. “He comes up, we look over financials, Eh, this… We could really make this work.” 

Then, they bought the building on Grand Avenue. Until then, The Iowa Project, was simply what they called their idea. Now, it was a brewery that was going to happen.

No, it was happening.

“This just got real, real fast,” Kline said he remembers thinking.

A ‘coup’ for Spencer

Spencer city officials have wanted a brewery or brew pub for quite some time. It’s been a suggestion of development plans and one of the reasons for at least one city program, the Retail Kickstarter program.

Spencer Main Street Executive Director Nancy Naeve said the brewery is huge for the downtown area. Finding a brewery for Spencer has been a conversation among city officials since the kickstarter program was first established.

“This is such a plus for not only Spencer, but it’s a huge coup for downtown Spencer,” Naeve said. 

Applegate said the city and its partners have been more than helpful throughout the process.

“They’re so excited and super supportive of whatever we’re trying to do,” Applegate said.

That sounds like a true win-win for Spencer and its new brewery.

Featured image: Lucas Kline and Nick Applegate, owners of The Iowa Brewery Project.

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